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01.29.18 My Favourite Albums of 201707.06.13 Rec Me Some Acoustic/Laid Back Shit
07.05.13 My Cd Collection

My Favourite Albums of 2017

I write one of these lists on my blog every year but never tried posting them to Sputnik before. So let's see what happens. No particular order, runners-up first, list starts at 10. Recommendations welcome.
14Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

Back in the day, Godspeed You Black Emperor were like nothing else on earth. They crafted long moody pieces with a deeply apocalyptic atmosphere using droning violins, piercing guitars and booming percussion. But the last few years have felt like they’ve been treading water. Luciferian Towers brings back some of the fire, with a greater air of optimism than anything they’ve done previously. The problem is it ends too soon - just as it starts to get going.

Listen to: Bosses Hang, Pt. I, II & III

This newly formed post metal band have crafted a fine debut in their self-titled LP. Dark and heavy, but also dynamic and full of mournful melodies, the band take the template of giants like Neurosis and Cult of Luna while managing to add their own spin on things via instrumentation such as piano. Cascades are certainly one to watch, especially if they can make their next record a little more even.

Listen to: Whitewater
The Optimist

This rock band’s latest release simultaneously looks forward and back, continuing the story of 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit, while expanding on the use of electronics from their previous release, Distant Satellites. However, while the instrumentation is great as always, many songs on The Optimist lack the heartfelt lyrics the band is known for, with the vocalists often opting to repeat the same phrases over and over again. This leads to a slight feeling of one-dimensionality.

Listen to: Leaving It Behind
11Doom Side of the Moon
Doom Side of the Moon

This is a fun, hard-rocking reimagining of Pink Floyd’s stone-cold classic from members of reliable riff machines The Sword. While the ‘Doom’ part of the name is frankly misleading as the music isn’t really slow enough to earn the title, Doom Side of the Moon is a well-played tribute to one of the greatest rock records of all time. Any fan of Dark Side of the Moon, especially those into heavier music, should check it out.

Listen to: Money
Every Country's Sun

Instrumental post rockers Mogwai have been going for a long time now, and with that many records under their belt they could be forgiven for slightly phoning it in at times. However, Every Country’s Sun is their most engaging release in years. Their familiar combination of dynamic guitars, solid drumming and the more recent use of electronics and synths is all present, but what rules in Every Country’s Sun’s favour is its flow. Mogwai know exactly when to change things up, from slow burners like ‘Coolverine’ to ambient soundscapes like ‘aka 47’, all the way to straight up rockers like ‘Old Poisons’. The record also sounds huge and has a powerful drum sound which works particularly well on the excellent title track.

Listen to: Every Country's Sun
9Steven Wilson
To the Bone

Prog lovers can be a reactionary bunch, seemingly conditioned to turn up their nose at the mere mention of ‘pop’ from their favourite multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire. But closer examination of Steven Wilson’s back catalogue shows that he’s always had a strain of pop running through him, especially in the earlier work of the much-missed Porcupine Tree. To The Bone is the most Porcupine Tree-like solo album from the frontman yet, incorporating far more of the pop sound of the past while retaining a prog-like attitude to genre exploration and diversity. Lyrics have always been Wilson’s weakness though, and dodgy lyrics here stand out like a sore thumb. In attempting to explore contemporary topics such as refugees and terrorism, he is far too on the nose, coming across as clumsy and maybe a bit insensitive. He’s always been a better musician.

Listen to: Refuge
8Queens of the Stone Age

If 2013’s …Like Clockwork was QOTSA’s ‘serious’ record, then Villains is their fun one. Aided by producer Mark Ronson, the Queens have created a fun and funky album which proves they are able to rock out as much as they are able to move you. Early reactions that Ronson’s involvement might water down the band’s sound have been proven wrong; this isn’t a pop record, it’s the sound of a band who know exactly what they want to do: groove. And for fans of the last album (myself included), the moodier side of …Like Clockwork shows through in closer ‘Villains of Circumstance’.

Listen to: The Evil Has Landed
7Nailed to Obscurity
King Delusion

Not all of my favourite albums have a unique sound; some just take a well-known template and execute it perfectly. In this case, the template is the melodic death doom of bands like Katatonia and Swallow The Sun. This massively ignored album from the most ironically named band ever stands out because of how varied yet consistent it remains throughout its running time. Never content to settle into one thing, Nailed to Obscurity change it up throughout with varied and intricate riffing, melodic guitar interludes and a mixture of snarling growls, emotive cleans and haunting whispers. The drumming is also excellent: tight, technical and interesting.

Listen to: Protean
6Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost have been going over 25 years now, yet they continue to chug along just below the radar of the mainstream. With their latest release, they go back to their roots and remain consistent as ever. 2015’s The Plague Within reintroduced growls, but here they make their full return because that’s what the music calls for. The riffs are slow, thick and crunchy, with the production suitably murky to suit, yet what could make for an oppressive and dull listen skips along thanks to the band’s signature mournful leads working as a light through the darkness. A knack for a good chorus helps, too.

Listen to: The Longest Winter
5The National
Sleep Well Beast

The National are another outlier in my tastes – sad indie with a huge mainstream following? No thanks. Except The National do it so well – heartfelt, poetic vocals mixed with the perfect instrumentation for each song, and stellar drumming that doesn’t need to be as good as it is. Listening to a National album feels like everything has been laid out seamlessly; there’s no bagginess, everything is exactly where it needs to be to hit you right in the heart. This emotive and mostly low-key album introduces more electronic influences than before, representing an interesting step forward in this band’s stellar discography. There’s even some bite, provided by Trump protest ‘Turtleneck' and the upbeat 'The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness', proving they can rock on record just as they do live.

Listen to: Guilty Party
Obsidian Arc

When hugely influential black metal-by way-of-neofolk purveyors Agalloch disbanded last year, it was a sad loss for the metal community. They were probably one of my favourite bands ever, having created masterful genre-crossing The Mantle. Pillorian arises from the ashes as the new band of frontman, guitarist and sometimes drummer John Haughm. Not stepping too far away from Haughm’s roots, Obsidian Arc is a massively promising debut which expands on the black metal influences of Agalloch while maintaining a tighter and darker aesthetic. The most interesting track, album closer ‘Dark is the River of Man’, is the band’s most direct connection to their forbearer, incorporating folky influences and atmospherics before blasting into a double kick-filled conclusion.

Listen to: Dark is the River of Man
Emperor of Sand

A culmination of all of Mastodon’s previous records, Emperor of Sand is a return to the prog bombast and high conceptry of 2009’s Crack the Skye – a personal favourite of mine. But it also maintains the leanness of their most recent sound, established across The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun, making it the perfect balance between the two sides of the band. If their most recent work could be criticised as being a little too safe, here, Mastodon bring back the longer passages and ripping solos of old, bolting on huge singalong choruses to create a fun and yet complex ride inspired by their experiences with cancer.

Listen to: Roots Remain
2The Menzingers
After the Party

The Menzingers have always been a highly accessible band with much mainstream potential, making them a bit of an outlier in my favourites. By taking the roots of punk and applying the potent themes of nostalgia and regret, they create anthems with substance. After the Party continues in much the same way while even daring to be a little more pop punk. Now they’re older, the band look back on their twenties wondering where all the time went. But despite what could be a sad and soul-sucking subject, the whole thing skips along because it’s all in such a catchy and fun package.

Listen to: Lookers

As the latest record from one of my favourite bands ever, (their last, Foundation of Burden, made it to my 2014 list), it was to be expected that I would like Heartless. What I didn’t expect was just how deep this album would get its hooks into me. From the Pink-Floyd worshipping intro of ‘Dancing in Madness’ to the meaty chugs of the title track, Heartless is the sound of a band confidently able to change their sound while still remaining true to themselves. Considering how melodic and bright this album is, many people have asked if Pallbearer is even a metal band anymore. My answer is: Who cares, when what they produce is this good?

Listen to: All of it. OK, Heartless
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